The 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors was broadcast on Wednesday, Dec. 26 on the CBS Television Network, with Caroline Kennedy as host for the 10th consecutive year. The seven honorees were honored in Washington, D.C. on Decemeber 2.
The annual event recognizes recipients for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures and television. Keeping with tradition, the roster of performers and presenters remained secret prior to the gala and a short biographical film was featured during each honoree’s tribute.
Performers and presenters included Alec Baldwin, Jeff Beck, Jack Black, Jason Bonham, Tracy Chapman, Gary Clark, Jr., Alina Cojocaru, Billy Connolly, Angel Corella, Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, Foo Fighters, Morgan Freeman, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Beth Hart, Judith Jamison, Julie Kent, Kid Rock, Jimmy Kimmel, Lenny Kravitz, Laura Osnes, Veronika Part, Tiler Peck, Grace Ann Pierce, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Romano, Liev Schreiber, Jimmie Vaughan, Naomi Watts, Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson.
President and Mrs. Barack Obama were seated with the honorees in the Presidential Box of the Opera House at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, after hosting the traditional White House reception for the honorees.
Host Caroline Kennedy opened the festivities by quoting poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “Congratulate yourselves if you have done something strange and extravagant and broken the monotony of a decorous age.” Kennedy then said, “Tonight we salute Honorees who, through their artistry and daring, have banished monotony and provided extravagant pleasure and joy to audiences the world over. On the signature wall behind me are the names of those who have gone before. To this splendid company we now add our Class of 2012.”
She continued, “With primal sounds at once beautiful and dangerous, these English lads built a band that gave new dimension to rock, and earned from an admiring world a ‘Whole Lotta Love’; a tall drink of water from Indiana who aspired to be Johnny, and earned a late night throne for a guy named Dave; a Louisiana sharecropper’s son who made his way to ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ and became America’s champion of the blues; a lithe beauty from St. Petersburg whose passion and elegance filled movement with meaning, giving new excitement to the words ‘Prima Ballerina’; as a ‘Graduate,’ a ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ a ‘Little Big Man,’ a ‘Rain Man’ and even as a ‘Tootsie,’ this actor redefined the movies’ idea of a leading man. These are our 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees.”
Led Zeppelin and Buddy Guy were among the music artists honored this year. Here is the recap of their honors.
Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman paid tribute to multiple Grammy Award-winning American blues guitarist and jazz singer Buddy Guy, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, stating, “I first heard the blues sitting on my grandmother’s porch in Mississippi – we called it “gut bucket music. You mastered the soul of that gutbucket music and used that as your starting point. You found a new music in it that no one had ever seen before. And without the Internet, without YouTube, without even FM radio, you went viral. You went viral, Buddy Guy. And you made a bridge from roots to rock and roll.” Freeman continued, “But there’s Buddy. Sitting up there with the best – a pioneer, a Queen, a King and a President – the best rock and roll band, a pioneer of acting, a queen of dance, king of late night and the President of the United States. So when you hear the blues, you don’t know if it’s white, black, yellow, purple or blue. Buddy Guy, your blues brought us together. Now that’s something to sing about.”
The tribute to Buddy Guy commenced with a performance by the Rob Mathes Band of “Every Day I Have the Blues,” which was quickly followed by a medley of “Things I Used to Do,” “I’m Ready” and “Hoochie Coochie Man,” performed by multiple Grammy Award-winning guitarist and singer Jimmie Vaughan, along with guitarist Gary Clark, Jr. Next, multiple Grammy Award winner Tracy Chapman took the stage to perform “Hound Dog,” followed by “I’d Rather Go Blind,” performed by multiple Grammy Award winner Jeff Beck and American jazz and blues singer Beth Hart. The tribute concluded with an upbeat medley of “My Time After a While” and “Sweet Home Chicago,” led by multiple Grammy Award-winning musician Bonnie Raitt.
Actor Jack Black introduced the tribute to multiple Grammy Award-winning, legendary rock band Led Zeppelin, saying, “Led Zeppelin… the greatest rock and roll band of all time… yeah, I said it. Better than the Beatles. Better than the Stones… even better than Tenacious D. That’s not opinion… that’s fact. If you don’t agree with me, it’s because you never did the Zeppelin marathon. That’s when you sit your ass down and listen to all nine Zepp albums in a row… What makes them so special is the contrast of power and beauty. Heavenly melodies intermingled with hellish rifts of thunder. The first time I heard Zepp was in high school. My body was changing and my mind was opening to new possibilities when Derek Skanky made me a mix tape of his favorite Zepp jams. They quickly became my favorite band. Throughout the years, I’ve explored all kinds of genres and styles… but it’s always come back to the Zepp.”
Black continued, “Sometimes I worry that they might’ve been the last great chapter in rock. Who will pick up the torch and lead a new generation into heavy metal Valhalla? Sadly, no living rockers possess the alchemy and black magic required for such a task… Until then, we have the blessed gift of Led Zeppelin’s box set to lift our spirits and soothe our souls. They say that Led Zeppelin sold their souls to Satan… come on guys, you know you did. There is no other way to explain your ungodly talent. I just want to say thank you… because while you suffer in the burning pit of Hell, the human race will cherish your heavenly jams till the end of time. A small price to pay. We love you. Best band ever.”
The tribute to Led Zeppelin commenced with an exciting performance of “Moby Dick” by the Rob Mathes Band. Next, multiple Grammy Award winner Lenny Kravitz performed “Whole Lotta Love,” followed by a medley of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Ramble On,” sung by Kid Rock. Then, multiple Grammy Award-winning rock band Foo Fighters took the stage to perform “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll.” Finally, Jason Bonham, the son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, along with Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson from the rock band Heart, backed by a choir wearing John Bonham style hats, rocked the house with an amazing performance of “Stairway to Heaven” that brought the evening to its rousing conclusion.
Click on the slide show to see photos of Led Zeppelin and Buddy Guy from the event.